June 2012

Valverde encouraged by initial tests, getting MRI

Jose Valverde said after the game that he was told by the Tigers medical staff that initial tests on his injured right wrist suggest it isn’t a serious injury. However, he left the ballpark soon after that to undergo an MRI at Detroit Medical Center.

Valverde said the wrist is sore, not a sharp pain. He hurt it while warming up in the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. He felt it immediately, tried to throw another pitch after that and couldn’t.

“I threw like 10 or 15 pitches. I’m almost ready for the game, and the last pitch I throw, I noticed my wrist started getting sore, tight,” he said. “I had to stop, tell them what’s going on, because I don’t want to be out for too long if it’s something serious.

“But I think I’ll be OK. I’m getting an MRI right now to figure it out.”

It all happened so quickly that Coke didn’t know what was going on until bullpen coach Mike Rojas told him to start warming up. He saw Valverde put down his glove and sit down and thought he had simply finished his warmup routine.

If Valverde is out for any length of time, look for Joaquin Benoit to fill in as closer. The way Benoit has been pitching for the past six weeks, that shouldn’t be a weakness at all. It’s the trickle-down effect to the earlier innings where a Valverde injury would create the biggest issue, because after Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel sharing the eighth inning, the relief corps gets very young. One would imagine Brayan Villarreal getting a good amount of seventh-inning hold chances.

Tuesday lineups: Tigers vs. Cardinals

Quintin Berry is again in the lineup, batting second and starting in left. Brennan Boesch moves down to the sixth spot, batting behind Delmon Young. Ramon Santiago gets the start at second base.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Brennan Boesch, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Justin Verlander

CARDINALS

  1. Rafael Furcal, SS
  2. Carlos Beltran, RF
  3. Matt Holliday, DH
  4. Allen Craig, LF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. David Freese, 3B
  7. Matt Adams, 1B
  8. Skip Schumaker, CF
  9. Daniel Descalso, 2B

P: Lance Lynn

Dotel activated from DL, Weber optioned

The Tigers got a major bump for their bullpen Tuesday by activating right-hander Octavio Dotel from the 15-day disabled list. Detroit optioned Thad Weber back to Toledo to make room.

Dotel hasn’t pitched in a game in two weeks, but didn’t go on the DL until last week. What was hoped to be minor shoulder soreness lingered until they couldn’t go a man short in the bullpen any longer. Jose Ortega and Luis Marte ended up in late-innings situations and struggled. Brayan Villarreal later stepped up and had an impressive stretch as the right-hander to carry leads to Joaquin Benoit.

Detroit’s late-inning relief corps is now pretty much intact with Dotel and Phil Coke carrying leads to Benoit and then to Jose Valverde. The Tigers could get another boost if Al Alburquerque returns as hoped around the all-star break.

Dotel returns just in time to face his former club. He won a World Series title with the Cardinals last fall.

Eldred, Tigers parting ways, reportedly to Japan

UPDATE: The move is now official. Brad Eldred has been released, the Tigers announced Tuesday afternoon, so that he can sign with the Hiroshima Carp.

Neither the Tigers nor Brad Eldred are saying anything at this point, but it’s clear that he and the Tigers organization are about to part ways.

“There’s nothing really to report yet,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said, “but I think we’ll know something tomorrow.”

Eldred was a last-minute scratch from the Mud Hens lineup, but was not injured. After the game, he was shaking hands with teammates, who were wishing him good luck as they passed by his half-empty locker.

At the same time, a report out of Japan said the Hiroshima Carp were attempting to acquire Eldred, whose hot start made him the talk of baseball earlier this season. It could be a release and a signing, or it could be a sale of the contract.

At this point, though, neither Eldred nor the Tigers are confirming that’s where he’s going. But they’re strongly hinting at it.

“What’s going on is probably better for me and my family,” Eldred said. “That’s obviously the way I’m going to go.”

Meanwhile, there was a new face bringing his equipment into the Mud Hens locker room. That was Jeff Baisley, who played 62 games this season with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, batting .284 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 41 RBIs in 62 games.

“He’ll be added tomorrow,” Nevin said.

Put it all together, and you can figure out what’s going down Tuesday.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything,” Eldred said. “I wish I could tell.”

Eldred made headlines with a torrid opening month in Toledo, batting .388 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 20 April games. That prompted the Tigers to purchase his contract April 27 after they released Brandon Inge. Manager Jim Leyland installed him as the designated hitter for three games against the Yankees, during which he went 2-for-13 with five strikeouts.

He was 3-for-16 with six strikeouts when the Tigers designated him for assignment the next Friday to make room for Delmon Young’s return from Major League Baseball’s restricted list. Eldred accepted the assignment rather than opt for free agency, which was his right.

Since then, Eldred has batted .263 (41-for-156) with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 43 games, while striking out 52 times.

“It’s been great,” Eldred said. “I couldn’t really ask for a whole lot more — obviously, more opportunity, whatever you want to call it. But it kind of is what it is right now.”

Avila feels good after first rehab game

Alex Avila started off his three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo Monday with five innings behind the plate and an 0-for-2 performance at the plate. More importantly, he came through feeling no pain in the right hamstring that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list a couple weeks ago.

“Felt good,” Avila said afterwards. “Just kind of what I expected as far as where I was at physically. Just trying to build up my stamina from not doing anything for a week and a half to catching, running, hitting, throwing, all that kind of stuff. It kind of feels like Spring Training a little bit. The first day, probably a little shocking to the body, but I feel really good.”

Avila nearly homered in his first at-bat in nearly two weeks, driving a ball off Lehigh Valley starter Tyler Cloyd to the warning track in right field, where it was caught. Cloyd struck him out swinging in the third inning.

“Saw some pitches, had some pretty decent swings, and I feel pretty good,” Avila said. “A couple more days of good at-bats and I’ll be ready to go.”

Behind the plate, he caught a rough start for lefty Andy Oliver, who gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings. Much of the damage came in the first three frames, including a ball that sailed to the backstop with nobody on.

It left him on his toes, but not moving wildly.

“If you remember right, he re-aggravated the injury [two weeks ago] kind of blocking a ball and moving around the plate. Fortunately, Andy threw a few wide ones and he was able to do that today,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “But he looked fine. He didn’t feel any pain, any weakness.”

Avila is scheduled to play five innings again for the Hens on Tuesday, then serve as the designated hitter on Wednesday. If he gets through that OK, the Tigers will activate him from the DL on Thursday in time to catch that afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.

“I knew coming into today from what I was doing in Detroit that my hamstring was good,” Avila said, “and I just wanted to make sure I could get it to where I could go 100 percent not thinking about it. The reason why I’m here early is because I could get to that point. Now it’s just kind of getting to a nice rhythm at the plate and seeing some pitches, taking some balls off the chest, building up some bruises and stuff like that. That’s what these games are going to be about.”

He’ll be catching Jacob Turner, who will be coming up from Toledo as well to make the start for the Tigers.

Jacob Turner to start Thursday against Cards

So much for the bullpen start idea for Thursday. Instead, it’ll be Jacob Turner facing the Cardinals in his first start for the Tigers this season.

The decision came down too late to get a pregame explanation about it from manager Jim Leyland, but it’s quite possible he just didn’t want to leave his bullpen that stretched, or take the chance that his bullpen would be ready to cover that many innings after Rick Porcello starts Wednesday night.

Turner was winless in three spot starts for the Tigers last season, but pitched decently well in two of them. The 21-year-old went into spring training as one of the favorites to win the open spot in the Tigers rotation, but early spring struggles put him behind before mid-spring shoulder tendinitis left him starting the season in extended spring training rather than Detroit or Toledo. He has 11 starts between Class A Lakeland and the Mud Hens, the last three of them going at least six innings with one earned run each. He allowed four hits and struck out six last Friday against Norfolk to outduel Jamie Moyer.

Avila heading out on rehab assignment with Hens

The rehab assignment is set for catcher Alex Avila, who will become a Toledo Mud Hens for a few days starting Monday night. He’s scheduled to catch five innings Monday and Tuesday night, then serve as the designated hitter on Wednesday. If all goes well, he’ll rejoin the Tigers in time for Thursday’s matinee against the Cardinals.

Fister to start Friday, bullpen day possible Thursday

Doug Fister felt fine this morning after his six scoreless innings of work Saturday, which is pretty much a best-case scenario for the Tigers right now. That said, manager Jim Leyland decided he isn’t going to push his luck, so he’s going to give Fister an extra day of rest and start him Friday night in the series opener at Pittsburgh.

Max Scherzer will also get the extra day then, starting Saturday. Thursday, meanwhile, remains a TBA assignment for the start.

“I’m thinking about making that start a bullpen game, depending on what we have to do before that,” Leyland said. “Sometimes that’s not a bad idea. … That’s just a thought. I’m not saying that’s going to happen.”

One possible reason behind the bullpen start is the increasing chance that they’ll only have to fill the rotation spot once before Drew Smyly comes back. He played catch Saturday and felt good, according to Leyland, and they’re hoping they can schedule him to pitch on June 26, the day he’s eligible to come off the disabled list. That would be the second game of the series in Texas.

Sunday: Tigers vs. Rockies

Tigers use a matchup with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to shuffle in some of thier left-handed hitters. Quintin Berry gets a start in left field, batting second, so they’ll have a chance to put their two speed guys back-to-back atop the batting order. Don Kelly starts at third base, getting Miguel Cabrera a day at designated hitter. Leyland said he’ll probably get Prince Fielder a day at DH at some point during the next stretch, when the Tigers play 20 games in 20 days before the All-Star break.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  8. Don Kelly, 3B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Max Scherzer

ROCKIES

  1. Eric Young, CF
  2. Marco Scutaro, SS
  3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
  4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
  5. Jason Giambi, DH
  6. Tyler Colvin, 1B
  7. Jordan Pecheco, 3B
  8. Chris Nelson, 2B
  9. Wil Nieves, C

P: Jeremy Guthrie

Avila could go on rehab assignment Monday

The timetable on Tigers catcher Alex Avila is picking up, enough that he could be ready to return when he’s eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Thursday.

A full day of catching work, everything short of game action, has drastically changed the outlook on his strained right hamstring.

“He had a great day today, throwing, running, hitting, catching [Justin] Verlander’s bullpen,” manager Jim Leyland said.

The hitting and running were repeats of what he did Friday. Verlander’s bullpen session was a test for how well he can handle catching duties. Avila said he had no problems in the 25-minute session, which is about as long as Verlander normally throws.

He’ll try to do all the same activities Sunday morning, though he’ll be catching someone else’s side session. If that goes well, Avila said, the plan is for him to join Triple-A Toledo on a rehab assignment when the Mud Hens return home Monday.

Avila would play three games, then be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game.

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